I was just a few weeks ago that Google officially ended the experiment that was Google Daydream. With that, the era of phone-based virtual reality was officially dead. The two big companies in the space, Google and Samsung, were out, leaving the market void. However, consumers and developers were still interested in the concept - just not as intensely as several years ago.
This week, recognizing the interest in the concept, Google decided to re-release their former VR platform, Google Cardboard, as an open-source project. The move is not unusual for Google, which has frequently open-sourced former products and projects that had failed the marketplace (Google Wave, anyone). By releasing Cardboard into the wild, the Dream of phone-based VR could still live on.
The problem, however, is that a community of developers will have to want to take on the challenge of maintaining the project. Sure, Google Wave, later known as Apache Wave, lived on for 6 more years, it was eventually put out to sea because of lack of interest. That could also be the fate of Cardboard, as it was discontinued for a reason.
However, virtual reality is a far more attractive product than online collaboration to individual developers. VR is a space where individuals can make an impact, and an open-source framework could make it easier for developers to build their first VR apps because it would reduce the cost of learning and deploying. Plus, for those who want to participate inexpensively, Cardboard would still be a way to accomplish it.
If the open-source platform is going to be any more successful than Wave, however, it is going to need someone to build a headset for it that is better than homemade. The likelihood of that now that it is no longer commercial, is unlikely. So, as we said with Wave - goodbye.